Carne Guisada is one the holy Trinities in Hispanic cooking. Whenever you think of THE classic Dominican dish, you think– Arroz, Habichuela, y Carne. Yet Carne literally means meat in Spanish, which makes the possibility of what meat endless. Nonetheless, it usually means one of two things– Pollo Guisado or Carne Guisada. Whichever you prefer usually comes down to personal preference. And to be honest, I have the hardest time choosing.
Now Carne Guisada is usually described as a Latin Style Beef Stew. Me personally, I prefer to think of it as a Stew Beef dish. Inverting the order of the two words means two very different things to me. But why, Zee?
Whenever I think of Beef Stew, I think of a hearty dish that you make the family dutch oven full of carrots, potatoes, peas, and tons of sauce. It’s an undeniable comfort food classic– but it’s not Carne Guisada. When I look at how I make Carne Guisada and how I grew up eating it, nothing about it invokes the memory of a hearty yet delicious Beef Stew. Now I’m probably in the minority or I’m probably just skewing a little more Dominican on this (remember I am half Cuban after all). Dominicans don’t typically add potatoes and carrots to their Carne Guisada. We also don’t really differentiate between Pepper Steak, Carne Guisada, and Bistec Encebollado— more on that later. However, Puerto Ricans always add carrots and potatoes to their Carne Guisada. It really adds to the beauty of this dish. It’s a classic Hispanic dish that changes from country from country all the while maintaining its impactful place in traditional, highly favored dishes.
I mentioned before that Dominicans don’t really differentiate between Carne Guisada, Pepper Steak, and Bistec Encebollado. To be fair, we don’t differentiate between any of them in the house. Restaurants are a different story since a good portion of the patrons may not be exclusively Dominican. All of those similar dishes are essentially the same. They differ in cut of meat and whether or not you’re adding onions or peppers at the end.
Now before you roll your eyes, and think, “Well, Zee if you’ve shared those recipes before and they’re all similar, then why are we here?” You’re here to learn a variation on a classic! I’m not kidding when I say that there’s a million and one ways to making the same dish and still being on target! You can capture traditional flavors and traditional cooking styles in more than one way.
In my previous recipes for Pepper Steak and Bistec Encebollado, I used a variety of different seasonings like Adobo, Chicken Bouillon Cube, and Salsa China– soy sauce. All of these ingredients add amazing flavor and even color. Today, I’m using homemade fresh sofrito and even showing you an optional sugar browning trick that’s super popular throughout the Caribbean. You simply heat up your deep-sided skillet, add oil, and 1 tsp of white sugar. As the oil heats up, the sugar begins to caramelize thus changing color. This browning of the sugar will serve as the base of color for your meat. It’s also a great indicator that your oil is hot and it’s time to add the meat.
This is a trick that my aunt swears by! You can use it to brown beef or chicken. I use it whenever I’m feeling nostalgic. I also really like using this trick whenever I’m making Pollo Guisado or Oxtails. All in all, this step is purely optional. Warming up your oil until it gets super hot will also do the trick. Now remember, whether you’re using the sugar browning method or hot oil method– BE CAREFUL. Hot oil is hot oil whether or not there’s sugar involved. Remember to be vigilant because no one likes the sting of popped oil.
- 2lbs Cubed Steak (Chuck or Sirloin)
- 1 Onion Sliced
- ½ Green Pepper Sliced
- 3 tbs Homemade Sofrito
- 2 tbs Olives *optional
- 1 ½ tbs Chicken Bouillon or Adobo
- ½ tbs Dominican Orégano
- 1 tbs Sazón
- ½ tsp White Sugar
- 1 tsp Tomato Paste
- 1 Lime
- Black Pepper to taste
- 1 tsp White Vinegar
- Olive Oil or Canola Oil
- 2-2½ cups of Water (Enough so that it covers meat)
- Combine sliced and peppers in a bowl. Add vinegar. Set aside
- In a large mixing bowl, add cubed steak and season with sofrito, Dominican Oregano, sazon, Chicken Bouillon/Adobo or salt of choice, black pepper, and fresh lime. Mix until everything is well combined. Let meat marinate for at 20 minutes or even overnight. Note-- if you're not using homemade sofrito feel free to substitute by adding diced onions, peppers, and garlic in stead.
- In a deep-sided skillet over medium heat, add olive oil (or oil of choice) along with 1 tsp of sugar in the center of pot. Let oil warm up until sugar begins to caramelize
- Once sugar has caramelize, carefully add the meat. Brown meat on all sides. Over time, the meat will begin to release its own juices. Afterwards, add water and add enough water so that covers the meat completely. Place lit on pot with a small opening for steam and pressure to release. Stew for about 25-30 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on pot. If water dries up before meat has had a chance to tenderize, add more water.
- After 25-30 mins, check meat for tenderness. If meat is still tough, add more water stew some more. If it has reached softness and tenderness that you like, add tomato paste. Be sure to work in the tomato paste into the sauce. *Note: you want to make sure that you have enough sauce, almost like a gravy or au jus. Don't let sauce dry up too much. If it's dried up too much, simply add more water
- In the end, add sliced onions and peppers that have been sitting 1 tsp of white vinegar along with olives (optional). Mix until well combined with meat and turn off flame. Cover with lid for 5 minutes and steam will soften onions and peppers
This recipe is great because you can enjoy it with any one of your favorite side dishes whether it’s: Mashed Potatoes, Moro de Habichuela, Congri | Moro Negro, Spanish Yellow Rice, Mangu and many many more!